DeKALB – The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office has seen an rapid increase in proceeds from seizing drug dealers' assets and have used the money to buy new tools.
They include adding a bar code system in the evidence room to easily find items, a computer investigation system called LeadsOnline, and two undercover police cars. The department also expects this week to receive $25,000 in new equipment for the special weapons and tactics team, which it purchased with $6,000 in seized drug money along with a $19,000 federal grant.
Illinois' Drug Asset Forfeiture Procedure Act says that any property used in facilitating drug activity or attributable to drug activity can be seized by police. The state law is based upon a similar federal law.
Police seizures of drug money and drug dealers' other assets, such as vehicles, can generate revenue for the departments, although the law states the aim is to punish people in the drug trade, rather than to generate funds for law enforcement. Police must wait until a criminal case is resolved before they are able to collect the forfeited assets and then use the money for training and investigative tools.
The numbers show the Sheriff's Office has had a significant increase in collecting drug-related assets mostly because of partnering with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in 2011. From 2013 through this year, authorities banked $55,000, compared with $8,288 in 2010. Before partnering with the DEA, deputies worked with the North Central Narcotic Task Force and received proceeds divided among a pool of police agencies that assisted with investigations.
Under the new arrangement, the DEA gives DeKalb County officers a portion of the proceeds according to how many hours they assisted with an investigation, said DeKalb County Sheriff Sheriff Roger Scott. Scott signed a one-year extension with the DEA on Thursday.
"It's certainly a plus," he said. "There are times when we need special equipment or have the opportunity to purchase an investigative tool that's not in the budget. We can use this money as long as it meets the federal standards to use it."
In a recent case, deputies searched the apartment of accused marijuana dealer Tadd Reiter, 31, of Cortland, and seized his 2001 Dodge Caravan and 2000 Harley Davidson motorcycle. Police said the motorcycle was paid for with the money Reiter made from his drug sales.
If convicted, Reiter's minivan and motorcycle could be turned over to the state and sold at auction. The forfeiture process typically takes six months to a year, Scott said. A hearing regarding Reiter's vehicles is scheduled in court today.
The sheriff's office is not the only local police agency with newer drug-related programs that have aided police. DeKalb police started their Targeted Response Unit last year. The unit targets drug dealers and manufacturers and limiting gang-related crimes, DeKalb police Sgt. Steve Lekkas said.
Lekkas said the TRU has been the driving force behind the recent investigations of two DeKalb women accused of selling cocaine near Littlejohn Elementary School and the methamphetamine cases.
Some of the DeKalb police investigations have led to seizing criminals' cars once they are convicted, Lekkas said.
"Hopefully, they'll think twice about trying to sell drugs again," he said.
Proceeds from the sale of drug assets
2014: $2,000 (estimate)
Source: DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott